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Business Ethics Vs. Military Ethics

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Business Ethics versus Military Ethics

June 18, 2005

Business Ethics versus Military Ethics

"The ultimate basis for ethics is clear: Human behavior has consequences for the welfare of others. We are capable of acting toward others in such a way as to increase or decrease the quality of their lives. We are capable of helping or harming. What is more, we are theoretically capable of understanding when we are doing the one and when the other. This is so because we have the capacity to put ourselves imaginatively in the place of others and recognize how we would be affected if someone were to act toward us as we are acting toward others" (Elder & Paul, 2003).

There are many types of ethics and many ways to incorporate practices to enforce ethics as well as punish violators of ethics requirements. Two categories of ethics that are similar yet different are ethics in Corporate America and ethics in the United States Air Force (U.S.A.F.). First, we need to understand what ethics are. Ethics contributes to the learning what is right or wrong. "Doing the right thing is not as straight forward as conveyed in a great deal of business ethics literature"(McNamara, C. 2003, 6). The definition between corporations and the military provides us with a general description of ethics. Are military and corporate ethics different?

Business Ethics in Corporate America

The Business ethics concept means many things to many different people. It is coming to know what is "right or wrong in the workplace and doing what is right -- this is in regard to effects of products/services and in relationships with stakeholders" (McNamara, C. 2003, 8 ). "According to Carter McNamara, business ethics is summarized into "Two Broad Areas of Business Ethics" defined as managerial mischief and moral mazes." (McNamara, C. 2003, 10). The first discussion will be managerial mischief. "Madsen and Shafritz, in their book "Essentials of Business Ethics" (Penguin Books, 1990) further explain that "managerial mischief" includes "illegal, unethical, or questionable practices of individual managers or organizations as well as the causes of such behaviors and remedies to eradicate them" (McNamara, C. 2003,10).

Business ethics is merely teaches the basics of what is wrong and right. Business ethics is a matter of dealing with situations that have no clear indication of what is wrong or right. Moral mazes of management include the many ethical situations that managers deal with daily. The wrongful use of resources and mismanagement of contracts and agreements, potential conflicts of interest, etc. cause many problems in the workplace.

Case Study #1 - Contract Conflict of Interests

The following case study shows a potential "conflict of interest" on a contract, and shows how an organization handled identifying and resolving the conflict in a positive way.

Alan Rose is a Senior Logistics Analyst with Dynamic Research Corporation, a company that provides logistics analysis as one of its key services. He is currently under contract to support the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program Office performing simulation and analysis of all logistical assets to include Supply, Manpower, and Support Equipment.

His company has been under the same general contract for several years. In the last year, the prime contractor has determined there is a requirement to build a separate simulation tool, which will support their supply and supply chain management analysis. This will be separate from the work done under the general contract.

The JSF Program Office had established a new contract and Alan's company won this contract. The contract required that both teams remain separated and not share data or information.

The first attempt at isolating the teams had the first group of analyst move their office from one floor of the building to the other. However, for contract/legal purposes this was not a complete solution. The result determined that the first team would be relocated from their new office location to another company building located several miles away.

Ethics in the Military

"Military ethics is rooted in three Os: owing, ordering, and oughting."(Toner, 2003, 4) "...Military ethics is about knowing whom and what we owe. Military ethics cannot properly exist without the concept of owing. If we know why we owe what we do, we are able to recognize the obligation, responsibility, and duty that give us a rise to moral thinking and ethical reasoning. This is an understanding of my moral indebtedness to those who have given me life and learning. "By not having a sense of owing, I am little more than a self-indulgent child, of whom we say, quite properly, that "he has no sense of responsibility" (Toner, 2003, 5 ).

"Neither can military ethics properly exist without the concept of ordering. I refer, instead, to moral structuring and ethical priorities. In the movie A Few Good Men, a Marine lance corporal tells his lawyers that the "code" based upon "unit, corps, God, country" (Toner, 2003). He has it, of course, all wrong. "In fact, many illegal activities or stupid mistakes in the military services are the result of leaders' failures to order wisely and well" (Toner, 2003, 6).

The three R's that follow are the guidelines to oughting, but the key for military ethics is this: What aviators do may not be the same thing as what they ought to do. Ethics, however; demurs insisting upon contextual and conditional obedience to orders, which ought to be what is lawful. Therefore, there is sometimes tension between the demands of authority in the military and the demands of ethical judgment. "So we have here not just what is (which is might and power or the man made or positive law) but also what ought to be (which is right or ethics or the natural or moral law) some



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